That title up there? *points* I know it’s cliché, but that’s because it’s true – and that’s great news for your writing! Yes, really. Bear with me for a minute.
It’s great news because as soon as you discover something that you didn’t know before, your work can grow by leaps and bounds almost overnight. Writerly “tics” I’ve seen recently:
- Favorite words. If your characters are staring, grinning, or nodding their way through your book, readers will notice – often before you do.
- Favorite punctuation marks. Exclamation points and em dashes are likely culprits here. I’m overly fond of both, myself, and reducing their number is often a specific goal when I self-edit my own work before sending it to a pro.
- “Words to use instead of said.” Several wonderful writers and editors have already written about this at great length and much more eloquently than I about why not to do this, so I won’t try to reinvent the wheel, but here’s the gist: said is invisible, and invisible is good. Unusual dialogue tags draw attention – and they’re drawing it away from wha the character actually said and onto your description of it. Instead of describing how something was said, choose words that leave no question You know what? That’s a whole post on its own. Next time!
- Short choppy sentences. They look fine when I’m writing them. I know what I’m saying. The scene is playing out in my head as I write.There are several things happening at once, or in sequence. Each one needs to be pointed out. Otherwise the reader won’t see what I see. But is this the best way to do it?
- Dialogue tags that aren’t. This can be related to avoiding the word said, but not always. It’s often connected to actions, as in “We should order pizza,” she grinned. Or, “You never let me get anchovies,” he growled. Well, no. Have you ever tried to talk while growling? Try it. We can’t really growl sentences, and we definitely can’t grin them.
These are just a few examples, but practically every writer has some sort of habit that sneaks in to their work when they aren’t looking. So why am I bringing up these issues and not telling you what to do about them? Because you’re smart, and these problems aren’t rocket science. You know what to do about them – unless you don’t know you’re doing them.
That’s why I offer my “Just the First 10,000 Words” service. I’ll review the first few chapters of your manuscript, using track changes to correct errors, point out repeated words, improve syntax, and leave comments suggesting ways to liven and clarify your prose. Then you—now empowered by knowing—can take that information and run with it, cleaning the rest of your manuscript of similar issues, swapping out your favorite too-often-repeated word for synonyms or something even more vivid, repairing dialogue tags, and seeing your own work in a whole new way.
Best of all, this saves you money. Instead of two rounds of line and copy editing, you might only need one, or the editor you work with—whether that’s me or someone else—can spend their time teasing out even deeper, more refined ways to polish your work, rather than locating repetitive words and phrases or fixing direct address commas. Take control, get the most value from your hard-earned cash, and watch your writing grow!